Saturday, February 9, 2013

Schavan steps down

German chancellor Merkel has now accepted the resignation of a second cabinet member as the result of plagiarism scandals. Both gave a press conference at 14.00 on February 9, 2013 announcing the resignation of Schavan and announcing Prof. Dr. Johanna Wanka as the new minister of education.

Schavan pointed out that she is not stepping down on account of plagiarism, as she is still convinced that she did not plagiarize, but because she is suing a university as a private person. She quotes a German politician: First my office, then the party, then me.

This, of course, does not solve the plagiarism problem in Germany. I hope that universities now get serious about the problem.


  1. Did Annette Schavan acknowledge the source of her quotation [Erwin Teufel] at the press conference announcing her resignation?

  2. Yes, she did. She attributed it to her mentor Erwin Teufel. I find a reference in with the quotation given in 2004 in as "Erst kommt das Land, dann die Partei, dann die Person Erwin Teufel."

  3. Curious, Debora,
    Have you commented on the severity of the plagiarism as documented on the schavanplag site here or elsewhere?
    I had a look at it a bit, it is far from Dr. Gutten-zu-copy-and-paste. Appears to me she could talk herself out of some of it via claiming "sloppyness". But then others look to much like clear shortcuts taken, repeatedly. I have seen some of my (science!) students taking great care to not copy but paraphrase and then cite the original source. And when they do this too often (instead of thinking some on their own), they unequivocally miss a cite, but not systematically like Schavan seems to have been doing with the Hupperschwiller Diss. Thinking of the times, her imminent career, etc., the assumption that this would never come out was a very reasonable one at the time (I see a book title on the horizon there for you ...), unlike in the Gutten-zu-copy-and-paste case (I guess one could argue she was smart, while he was stupid). In retrospect, having gotten away with it for 30 years it probably had an enormously positive impact on her career, so whatever is happening right now is basically show, aka irrelevant, many crocodile tears and a meaningless lawsuit.

    Your take?

  4. My general comment is that the zu Guttenberg plagiarism is a copy & paste job that any sixth grader understands. The Schavan plagiarism deals a lot with paraphrasing to attempt to wipe out the trace of the original, sometimes negating the statement intended. It would be useful to have a bachelor's degree in humanities in order to understand the plagiarism. The places where she copies the errors show that this is indeed plagiarism, as well as the works not included in the bibliography at all.

    This is like my students asking: How many words do I have to change in order to make it mine?

  5. Schavan did not do herself any favors by strenuously denying any wrongdoing, when the proof was out there for all to see. She should have admitted to some errors of judgment and negligence, and then argued that most of her thesis was in fact her own, and a substantial piece of work even after removing the improper material. Had she pleaded forgiveness instead of seeking confrontation and trying to apply pressure, the result might well have been different.

    I somewhat suspect that she followed poor advice from some combative but academically clueless party hacks.